NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Arrivals aren't Going to Disneyland

February 18, 2004

California is attracting a smaller share of new immigrants for the first time in 30 years, a dramatic turnaround that could improve the state's economic fortunes and create ripples across the nation.

Recent immigrants are increasingly flocking to other states, shrinking California's share of the nation's newcomers, according to a study by researchers at the University of Southern California.

Almost every state's share of newcomers from other countries is up. Georgia and North Carolina are among the popular new destinations. Only California and New York, two traditional magnets for immigrants, have seen their shares drop significantly. The shift to other states bodes well for California, say the researchers:

  • Recent immigrants -- defined as those who have been in the United States less than 10 years -- tend to be poorer than more established immigrants.
  • The trend in California may ease the state's shortage of affordable housing and the burden on schools grappling to educate a multilingual student body.
  • Fewer people competing for low-paying jobs also could lift wages.
  • The percentage of all immigrants in California who were below the poverty level in 2000 declined for the first time since 1970.
  • Immigrants during the 1990s were not as poor as those who came the previous three decades.
  • Immigrants who bypass California are lured by jobs and cheaper housing elsewhere, say researchers.

"States that are now absorbing significant increases in new immigrants may also go through the burden of rising poverty that California endured before 1990," says Dowell Myers, the study's lead author. "It's positive for the state of California, and it's positive for the nation as well. It's good to have immigration spread out more evenly.''

Source: Haya El Nasser, "New immigrants skip Calif. State's share of recent arrivals to USA shrinks," USA Today, February 18, 2004; based upon, Dowell Myers et al., "California's Immigrants Turn the Corner," University of Southern California Urban Initiative, 2004.


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